2020 Honda CR-V Review

2020 Honda CR-V - Refinements and the addition of a hybrid powertrain keep CR-V at the top of the compact crossover class.


Honda's best-selling model, the CR-V, gets even better for 2020 with fresh styling and a hybrid model, designed to go toe-to-toe with the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. The current CR-V was introduced in 2017 and is a front- or all-wheel drive 5-passenger, 4-door wagon. CR-V competes with vehicles like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee and Compass, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan.

In addition to the introduction of the first-ever CR-V Hybrid, changes for 2020 include a redesigned exterior that boasts a new front bumper, grille, and headlight cluster. Gone is the LX model's lethargic engine, marking the turbocharged 1.5-liter standard on all gas-only models.

CR-V's model lineup includes LX, EX, EX-L and Touring, with prices starting as low as $25,150 for the gas-only CR-V and $27,850 for the hybrid. All gas-only CR-Vs come with a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque. The engine mates to a continuously variable automatic transmission and is offered with front- or all-wheel drive. CR-V Hybrid comes with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that mates to two electric motors to provide a total output of 212 horsepower. The hybrid is offered only with all-wheel drive. Towing capacity on the gas-only model is 1,500 pounds. Towing is not recommended with CR-V Hybrid.

All CR-V models come standard with the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies, including forward-collision warning with automatic braking and pedestrian sensing capability, road-departure mitigation and lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and lane-keeping assist. Also offered are blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic monitor and auto high beams. Like all Honda models, there are no individual options available on the CR-V.

Dropping the lackluster base engine was the single biggest improvement Honda could have made to the CR-V short of a complete redesign. Now all gas models get a peppy, if somewhat noisy, engine that seems well suited to typical urban commuting. With a 0 to 60 MPH time of about 7.8 seconds, it doesn't wow, but it does provide good squirt off the line and enough passing punch when merging. The continuously variable automatic is mostly unobtrusive, but does seem to favor lower RPMs which somewhat throttles acceleration.

The hybrid's powertrain impresses as well, providing good acceleration off the line and enough passing punch when the situation dictates. It seems a bit smoother overall than the gas-only engine as well. Power delivery is seamless and the $1,500 price penalty seems quite reasonable given the fuel economy boost.

Speaking of economy, the front-drive gas-only CR-V is EPA rated at 28 MPG city and 34 MPG highway with the hybrid netting EPA ratings of 40 MPG city and 35 MPG highway. In both cases, those numbers impress. It is interesting to note that the hybrid does best in urban driving situations, while its advantage drops considerably on the highway. So, if you spend a lot of time at highway speed, perhaps it is best to choose the less-expensive gas-only model. Both engines run fine on regular-grade gasoline. In routine suburban commuting expect to average about 30 MPG overall with the gas-only CR-V and perhaps as high as 35 MPG overall with the hybrid.

CR-V's all-wheel drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for severe off-road use. In fact, the CR-V has a very basic system that's best suited for urban use on slippery roads. Asking the CR-V to trek off the beaten path is likely a bad idea, given the minimal ground clearance and street tires.

Since its inception the CR-V has set the standard among mainstream compact crossovers for ride quality and general driving dynamics. No, you won't win the parking lot auto cross, but you won't grow queasy from undue oscillations either. The suspension strikes a great balance between a firm and controlled ride and enough softness to provide isolation from potholes and expansion joints. Most will appreciate the CR-Vs refined ride, precise steering, and strong brakes. In short, the composed and compliant ride of the CR-V makes for pleasant commutes.

Interior noise levels are mostly subdued; however, the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine is the gas only model does grow gruff in hard acceleration and tends to buzz at speeds above 75 MPH.

CR-V sports a stylish and spacious interior that is actually quite functional as well. Quality, if somewhat sturdy, materials and a familiar layout combine for a contemporary look and feel. Touring models feature a balance of faux-wood accents, chromed plastic, and brushed-satin finishes.

The instrument cluster is a mashup of digital and analog gauges that is mostly readable at a glance, but other all-digital digital displays seem a bit more modern and feature more customization. The center stack is a refreshing model of simplicity with an available large touch screen display topping traditional buttons and dials for the climate control system. Honda even nicely swaps a traditional shifter for buttons that save space and are easy enough to operate. the shifter. A couple of demerits though, the base model is stuck with a tiny 5-inch screen for the radio and does not support Android Auto or Apple Car Play and the available wireless charging is too small for today's larger phones.

The front seats are supportive and nicely shaped front seats to provide comfort and support for occupants, large or small. In addition, front-seat head and leg room are quite good. Second-row passengers are treated to great room as well, though the seats are a bit less comfortable due to a flat seat bottom cushion. However, the floor is completely flat, providing ample foot space for three-abreast seating. The lower ride height and large door openings pay off, providing excellent ingress and egress and the tall windows and thin pillars provide unperilled outward visibility.

CR-V offers class-leading cargo volume and interior storage. Seats up, gas-only models offer a whopping 40 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Fold the seats down and you'll get 75 cubic feet of storage. Both numbers top the segment. Note that hybrid models get slightly less cargo space due to a higher load floor. Inside, you'll find cubbies and bins all over the place, providing lot of room for small-item storage.

Bottom Line -- CR-V continues to be one of the best all-around compact crossovers, and the changes for 2020 make it even more appealing. The new hybrid model isn't quite as fuel-efficient as the RAV4 Hybrid, but it's close enough to not really matter. Throw in Honda's excellent reputation for reliability and resale value and the CR-V becomes a must-see compact crossover.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.